Duterte urged: Don't be pro-China or pro-US

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2016 06:45 PM | Updated as of Jul 13 2016 09:40 PM

MANILA - After the Philippines' arbitration victory over China on their sea dispute, an analyst urged President Rodrigo Duterte to learn from the lessons of the past and deal with China in a manner different from that of his predecessors.

Speaking on ANC's "Beyond Politics," Chito Sta. Romana, former ABC News Beijing Bureau Chief, said Duterte's willingness to talk with China is a good start.

"This is part of what gives us, in a sense, leverage and it gives us the moral high ground. But I think what's helping right now is the desire to have better relations with China," he said, noting that Vietnam and Russia were able to resolve their territorial disputes with China.

Sta. Romana added that the new administration should use both engagement and deterrence in dealing with China.

"Generally, the two-pronged approach that I think the administration should use is engagement and deterrence. You need deterrence, you need the alliance with the US, you need EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement], in case there is Chinese military adventurism. But you need engagement, as he (Duterte) is doing already, to be able to talk to them, to be able to improve the economic relations, political relations," he said.

He also said that Duterte should learn from the past and adopt a middle-ground approach toward China, different from those taken by former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.

"You see what's happened in the past one, two, three administrations, or the past two administrations, you just look at GMA and PNoy. GMA had very good relations with China but then it all erupted with corruption, the lack of transparency.

"And then after [the skirmishes at] Scarborough (Shoal), PNoy adopted a very adversarial (stance), [and then] filed a case... It's how to combine getting along with China and being able to stand up and discuss disputes, and this is where, I think, the challenge is," Sta. Romana said.

"You should learn from the lessons of the past on both sides and now find a way so that you could combine engagement and deterrence," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week offered China conciliatory talks on the long-awaited international tribunal ruling over conflicting maritime claims.

"If it's favorable to us, let's talk," Duterte said in a speech before the Philippine Air Force last July 5.


Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque, meanwhile, said that because of Duterte's stance on China, his clients were allowed to fish in the waters of Scarborough Shoal.

"Because of his avowed readiness to repair ties, my clients are able to fish in the Scarborough, at least since Duterte took over. I don't know if they will continue be allowed to fish after this decision, but they have actually been allowed to fish," he said.

He also believes, the fact that Duterte chose not to criticize China will be beneficial for the country.

"The best news going for us, the best development is that we have a new administration, and it helps that this new administration has made it clear that it sees the distinction between Philippine national interest and American national interest. So notice that after he (Duterte) has taken over, he did not take part in the increased attacks against China coming from the United States. The former administration would have just seconded everything that the Americans said, but President Duterte was absolutely quiet, which shows already a point of distinction between this administration and the past administration," Roque said.

Judges at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague on Tuesday rejected China's claims to economic rights across large swathes of the South China Sea in a ruling that was claimed as a victory by the Philippines.

"There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'," the court said, referring to a demarcation line on a 1947 map of the sea, which is rich in energy, mineral and fishing resources.